Marcia Mayeda, director of the animal control agency, said the county "strongly encouraged" Lancaster to adopt existing county laws regarding pet owners' responsibilities. The laws, which cover unincorporated areas, require all dogs more than 4 months old to be spayed or neutered and implanted with an identification microchip.
Faced with criticism, L.A. County backed off initial plans in 2006 to require specific breeds of dogs to be neutered.
"It makes a lot more sense for communities on the whole to require that all dogs be sterilized," Mayeda said. "Any animal can bite and be overproduced. It's also much easier to enforce."
Mayeda acknowledged that gang members see dogs such as pit bulls as a status symbol. But she expressed a view shared by many animal advocates that those who want to train a vicious dog would simply pick another breed.
Parris, an attorney whose law firm specializes in personal injury and class-action suits, is unapologetic about his desire to restrict the dogs. He said he is willing "to bear the weight of some injustice" against responsible owners.
"Even if people who are not gangbangers have their pit bulls taken away, it means that these beasts are off the streets," Parris said. "And they are indeed beasts. They're not Toto."
Jennifer King, a client of Parris' firm, strongly agrees. Her daughter Brittney Cesena, now 3, was mauled by a pit bull at the Palmdale home of a former family friend when she was 11 months old.
The toddler suffered grotesque facial injuries, and her ear had to be retrieved from the dog's stomach, according to the family's attorneys, who are suing the dog's owners for "negligence and strict liability."
The case is expected to go to trial later this year.